History of SECF

SECF was established in 1970 by the leaders of North Carolina and Georgia foundations in response to the Tax Reform Act of 1969 to represent foundation interests with federal officials at a time when private philanthropy was under intense scrutiny by Congress. SECF has grown to become the nation’s second largest regional association of grantmakers (as measured by the number of its members – community, corporate, family, health legacy, and independent foundations and giving programs of all sizes). During the past decade, SECF has greatly expanded its range of programs and services for members.

The Southeastern Council of Foundations is one of the largest and oldest regional associations of grantmakers in the country. In our over four decades of existence we have experienced a number of breakthroughs and milestones.

Previous SECF Board Chairs:

Throughout its history, SECF has been led by philanthropic leaders from throughout the Southeast. Under current bylaws, the Chair of the Board of Trustees is elected to a one-year term that begins with each Annual Meeting. Click here to view a full list of SECF Board Chairs.

SECF's History Timeline: Below are some of the key dates in SECF's history.


  • Karen McNeil-Miller elected SECF’s first African American board chair.
  • SECF partners with the Council on Foundations to launch "Foundations 101” meetings which engage more than 125 congressional and foundation staff around the region.
  • SECF launches first e-magazine, SECF YouTube channel and mobile app at the Annual Meeting.


  • Pete McTier serves as SECF’s interim President & CEO.
  • Grantmakers of Kentucky holds inaugural meeting in Louisville, KY.
  • Janine Lee becomes SECF’s President & CEO, first female and first African American and only
    the fifth in 42 years.


  • Georgia Philanthropic Initiative launched by SECF, renamed Georgia Grantmakers Alliance and holds inaugural meeting in Macon, GA.
  • Grantmakers of Kentucky formed by SECF.
  • SECF holds inaugural CEO Forum, Jacksonville, FL.


  • SECF launches its 2010 – 2013 Strategic Plan.
  • SECF holds inaugural Conference on Investing.
  • Hull Fellows Program redesigned adding mentors, Capstone projects and webinars throughout the year.


  • Michael R. Howland, CAE, succeeds Mr. Lehfeldt  as President & CEO.
  • SECF sets attendance records for Foundations on the Hill and the Annual Meeting.


  • SECF launches series of Accountability Workshops and a self-assessment tool for foundations.
  • SECF develops "state captain” model for Foundations on the Hill, tripling member participation. 


  • SECF issues first electronic Member Advisory, the subject: governmental interest in the sector.
  • SECF holds inaugural Family Foundations Forum in Point Clear, AL. 


  • SECF creates new "Health Legacy Foundation” group among members.
  • SECF introduces sponsorship program for Annual Meeting to generate non-dues revenue. 


  • SECF develops and delivers continuing legal education courses in partnership with bar associations
    in nine states.


  • SECF implements a comprehensive technology plan.
  • SECF conducts first independent member survey. 


  • SECF launches its first website and e-newsletter.
  • SECF helps launch the Georgia Rural Philanthropy Initiative with the Sapelo Foundation.
  • SECF publishes first edition of Southern Philanthropy: A Regional Overview.
  • SECF publishes the Southern Toolkit for Giving.
  • As part of the Southern Philanthropy Consortium, SECF publishes The Philanthropy Index for
    Small Towns and Rural Areas


  • SECF launches Hull Leadership Development Program.


  • SECF helps to launch and staff Florida Federation of Community Foundations.
  • New Ventures in Philanthropy and Ford Foundation award grants to SECF to continue work of
    Southern Philanthropy Consortium.
  • Ford Foundation awards grant for SECF work with new health care foundations in region.


  • SECF increases dues for private foundations and changes dues calculation for community foundations
    to an asset-based formula.
  • Martin C. Lehfeldt succeeds Mr. Hull as President.
  • Membership adopts Strategic Plan.
  • Voluntary contributions from members to honor Mr. Hull create endowed Hull Leadership Development Program.
  • New Ventures in Philanthropy awards SECF planning grant to establish.
  • Southern Philanthropy Consortium (with Southern Rural Development.
  • Initiative and Collaborative of Mid South Community Foundations to promote formation  of new
    philanthropy in rural areas of South.


  • Grant from C. S. Mott Foundation enables SECF to begin program to "increase philanthropy"  in the South.
  • Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation grant leads to creation of Community Foundation.
  • Alliance of North Carolina to promote increased giving to that state's community foundations.  


  • Board increases its membership from 18 to 21.


  • SECF launches Community Foundation Initiative with special funding from Robert W. Woodruff
    and other foundations.
  • Association welcomes West Virginia as part of its service area. 


  • Board adopts first Strategic Plan. 


  • Martha Peck of Burroughs-Wellcome Fund becomes first female board chair.


  • Development of graduated dues system, based on grantmaking activity.


  • Corporate giving programs admitted as members.


  • Robert H. Hull succeeds Mr. Rooks as President of SECF. 


  • Charles Rooks becomes first paid Executive Director of SECF.


  • 46 initial members pay annual dues of $75.


  • 75 foundation representatives gather for SECF's first Annual Meeting.
  • William H. Bondurant begins two-year service as volunteer Executive Director.


  • In response to passage of the Tax Reform Act, 24 foundation leaders meet to establish
    Southeastern Council of Foundations.